Cluniac Priory was established in the 12th century at Stansgate, Steeple.
The farmer was ploughing the field next to the old Priory when he spoke out loud that the Devil could have his soul if he would do the ploughing. The Devil then appeared and took the plough. The frightened farmer ran to the priory church with the devil in hot pursuit. As the farmer entered the church the devil made a lunge just missing the farmer.
According to legend  marks could be seen on the stone building that were reputed to be the devil.
The priory was  demolished by the landowner in 1923 although the field in question was not again ploughed until 1946 as successive farmers were worried by the legend.
The land in question is now owned by Anthony Wedgewood-Benn the celebrated MP.


The area abounds with stories about ghosts mostly centred on Bradwell on Sea.

A special page deals with legends about local ghosts. To visit this page please click the below button.

NORTH FAMBRIDGE - A story of true romance

Captain Cammock became a widower when his wife Ursula died leaving him with 9 children. However Captain Cammock Courted  Alice the  daughter of Lord Rich who fell in love with him . However Lord Rich did not consider the widowed Captain Cammock a suitable match. One dark and stormy night the lovers took advantage of the Lords absence to elope.  Lord Rich unexpectedly returned and gave chase to the lovers. As the lovers reached the ferry crossing at South FAMBRIDGE they found that the ferry was on the wrong side of the River with the Lord close behind. The lovers decided to risk all and plunged into the swollen River Crouch on one horse to try to swim across. As their horse reached midpoint the Earl reached the bank and his horse whinnied. The lovers horse heard this sound and returned to the original bank. On their return the Lord declared that in view of the devotion shown he would consent to marriage and the pair wed for a long and happy life having are ported 13 children.
A footnote to this story is that Captain Cannock is buried at All saints Church, Maldon with his two wives  either side of him.


Four and Twenty Blackbirds a baked into a pie 

The familiar nursery rhyme is based on fact as Blackbird pie was enjoyed by Marsh men .
Blackbirds, Rooks,plover,moorhen,dunlin and even sparrows were used as filling for a suet pie or in a stew with dumplings.

The breasts of twenty to thirty birds were required for each pie with a piece of fat for flavour.
Meat from Rooks was so strong that they had to be cooked with lots of onion and bacon to mask the taste.
The local name for this dish was Oxbird Pudden ( Oxbird was the local name for Dunlin)
To celebrate the availability of  small birds 12 May was declared as Rook shooting day in villages across Essex.

The ghostly bells of the River Crouch - The Hart Family of witches 

The Hart family were the most notorious witches to reside in the area .
As a witch Mistress Hart suffered from an allergy to Church Bells. She was especially annoyed by the bells at Latchingdon Church. One night she removed the bells from the church tower and took them to Burnham where she attempted to take them to the opposite side of the river. Instead of a boat she used a barrel and used a feather for an oar. Not suprisingly neither she or the bells made the crossing. Legend has it that on stormy nights the bells can be hear tolling from under the River Crouch

The last Hart witch is documented as living near Deadway Bridge, Latchingdon in the early 1900's. Rumour had it that legions of imps were hidden in her cottage. One night a man was riding past her cottage when he met a vast army of small animals with fiery red eyes. He lashed his horse and escaped although to his dying day he claimed that the creatures were Mistress Hart's imps on their way to cause mischief.

Witches and Warlocks
Fanny Bird was Creaksea's witch who was used to get her way from people scared of her magical spells. One day a man refused to move out of her way. She said to the man " You look out. I'll see you get home wetter than you started off today" . The man laughed and continued his way but a few minutes later he fell into a dyke and nearly drowned.

Isabel Whyte, a spinster of Purleigh appeared at Essex Quarter Sessions accused of killing two cows, a ram and 9 pigs belonging to Thomas Ward in March 1600. She was accused of bewitching the animals and causing them to die although she was acquitted of the charge.

John Smyth alias Salmon of Danbury also appeared before Essex Quarter Sessions where he was found guilty of bewitching 8 cows,6 calves, 3 pigs and 7 ewes belonging to Francis Simon of Stow Maries. He was however acquitted on a charge of bewitching to death Rose Larkin also of Stow Maries.  The sentence is not recorded.

A retired Policeman called Buzzy and his friend Silly Bill lived in the Latchingdon area where they worked on the land. Buzzy was renowned for his magic and his ability to cause farm machinery to stop merely by looking at the machine ( this may well have been a crafty way to gain a break by the workmen rather than magic!) . His most famous magic was to look at a silent thrashing engine which suddenly burst into life.